On March 19th, 2016, I was walking into Innovative Martial Arts Academy for something I’ve spent years preparing for, my black belt test. I knew all the material, had all the practice, but my nerves were shot nonetheless.
As a dojo rule, we do not share details of what the test required, but it was complete physically demanding and knowledge exam. In the words of Sensei Charles, it’s the best, and worst, day of my life.
After hours of testing, I had finally earned my black belt, even broke an inch-thick wooden board with my name on it. I had never felt such a thrill, although I was too exhausted to show it. I had something that I could look at and say, “I earned this, I did that, it was my hard work that got me here,” and I could find pride in that. And I do take pride in not only the accomplishment, but the work to earn it.
The people I tested with have all moved on, but we all found a certain respect for each other, going through that experience together, a sort of brother and sisterhood. When I walked back out with my black belt around my waist, I had a new perspective on the world, approaching situations with more confidence than I ever had before, more bravery, and it felt powerful, all feelings I still hold to this day.